Jack's duty is to make the grade
Kennedy stands in for Cooper as he looks to make his mark in another top-level race
Gordon Elliott has described Death Duty as the best novice hurdler in his ranks and Eddie O'Leary suggested he is the pick of the bunch among the Gigginstown team also and the unbeaten hurdler will get the opportunity to justify that faith at Naas tomorrow.
The first top-level race to be run at Naas is now into its third season as a Grade One but tomorrow's renewal of the two-and-a-half-mile Lawlors Hotel Novice Hurdle looks set to be the best yet as Death Duty takes on the Willie Mullins pair of Augusta Kate and Turcagua.
Not to be forgotten are the other Gigginstown pair of Bel Ami De Sivola and Blood Crazed Tiger, who are on a four-timer and a five-timer respectively, but this looks all about Death Duty's opportunity to establish himself as not only the best novice hurdler in the trainer or owner's ranks but as one of the best around this season.
"It was always the intention to skip Christmas with him and go for this race at Naas," Elliott told the Herald yesterday. "It's a Grade One and it's the natural next step for him now.
"He won nicely at Navan and we couldn't be happier with him. You'd have to say, on what he has done so far he looks to be the best novice hurdler we've run this season so we'll see how it goes on Sunday. Willie has a couple of nice horses in the race."
Rising teenage star Jack Kennedy, 17, will be the man onboard Death Duty, who will wear the third colours of the Gigginstown team with a navy distinguishing cap, as Bryan Cooper recovers from injury.
Cooper's broken pelvis is likely to see Kennedy pick up the lion's share of spare rides for Gigginstown and fresh from his maiden Grade One triumph on Outlander in the Lexus Chase at Leopardstown, Kennedy will be hoping to quickly follow that with another top-level triumph.
Initially, when the race was priced up earlier in the week, it was impressive Punchestown maiden hurdle winner Turcagua who was the clear second favourite, but that place is now taken by Augusta Kate, who is also the mount of Ruby Walsh for the champion trainer.
A listed bumper winner at the Punchestown Festival, she went on to score over hurdles at Thurles and is a general 6/1 second favourite for the Mares Novices' Hurdle at the Cheltenham Festival.
Following the withdrawal of the Gigginstown horses from Willie Mullins earlier in the season, the champion trainer undoubtedly lost some of his novice chasers but he still has an enviable team in that division and American Tom will be aiming to enhance his growing reputation in the two-mile novice chase tomorrow.
With the Rich Ricci-owned Min heading the two-mile novice chase division in Ireland at the moment, Mullins also has the likes of Yorkhill and Bellshill to consider as well as the still slightly unknown quantity of Listen Dear, who is unbeaten in six and is a seven-time winner overall.
American Tom is always a horse that has attracted a favourable mention from his owner and after a setback ruled him out of making the Cheltenham Festival or any big engagements last season, this looks like a nice stepping stone for him on his way to bigger assignments over fences during this campaign.
Naas are renowned for staging strongly run bumpers and both the finale tomorrow and the last race at Cork today are worth tuning in for.
At Naas, the field of 12 features 11 newcomers with only Shark Hanlon's I See You Well managing to get a run in as a three-year-old.
Joseph O'Brien's newcomer Le Richebourg is half-brother to Grade One winner Grand Crus and has to warrant plenty of respect with Jamie Codd booked to ride and Cosmo's Moon is another of note given the bullish remarks of trainer Robbie McNamara after he sent out Quick Grabim to win the Leopardstown bumper last week.
Another of O'Brien's newcomers catches the eye in the bumper at Cork. Michael Tabor's silks will be carried in a jump race, which is a very rare sight in Ireland. West Coast Time will be ridden by Patrick Mullins and is a son of a Grade One winner, Refinement, but Drumconnor Lad looks the pick of those that has previous experience.